5 Minutes With…Stephen Johns at Solent Mind

5 Minutes With…Stephen Johns at Solent Mind

Steve Johns, Solent Mind

We caught up with Stephen Johns, Service Manager at Solent Mind. He heads up the Remind Team which work to support local people living with dementia in Portsmouth.

In this interview Stephen gives us more insight into how Mind carry out the work they do and the key challenges!

Can you tell us a little bit more about Solent Mind and the services you provide? 

Mind Solent

So I think as most people are aware, Solent Mind is a mental health charity based in the South of England and supports a wide range of people with mental health issues. Mental health has been something that everyone has kept hidden for so long and only in recent years are we seeing it come into the open.

Within Solent Mind, I head up the Remind team which supports people living with dementia. We take on clients who have been formally diagnosed with dementia and who have been referred to us; the method of referral comes in different forms, for example from an NHS Consultant or GP, from another support organisation or self-referral.

How do Solent Mind support the elderly community? What are the main issues you see around elderly mental health?

Within Remind, our strong focus is to support the dementia client and their carer to live as full a life as possible within their own home; this is key for us. There are many different forms of dementia and therefore each client will come with their own needs. What my team sets out to do is firstly listen to the client and their carer as they carry out an initial assessment; this is so important and takes time. During the assessment, the Remind staff member will formulate a support plan that they will lead over the coming weeks and months.

The team includes both Intensive Engagement Support Workers and Rowans Dementia Specialist nurses who all come with a great deal of experience; but equally as important, they come with a passion to help those living with dementia.  That I believe, is what makes the team stand out. In essence, the main issue is to help clients live as well as possible with dementia in their homes wherever possible. Stimulation for those living with dementia is vital and I have a dedicated staff member who runs activity groups and Cognitive Stimulation Therapy sessions. Obviously at this time, we cannot gather together in groups and so we are communicating by sending out activity packages to our clients by post, and are about to use technology to good effect by running small group sessions over Zoom.  It is essential that these lines of communication are kept open at this very challenging time.

What are the main considerations for concerned relatives when choosing dementia support for elderly relatives?

One of the aspects that I had not considered when taking over my job as the Remind Service Manager was the vital role that relatives (who are often the main carer) have to play in support of the dementia client. What I also did not fully appreciate, was the effect that supporting a person living with dementia can have on the life of the close relative and the immediate family.  It can be an extremely stressful time.

Therefore, we work hard to communicate closely with relatives and maintain a close relationship throughout the period of our engagement.  It is vitally important that my staff establish a strong rapport and trust at an early stage with both the dementia client and their carer; this is a key part of our daily work.

What do you feel are key challenges providing dementia support moving forward through the pandemic? 

Throughout the first few months of the Covid 19 pandemic, we have worked hard to keep our clients safe.  We are currently supporting 161 dementia clients, many of whom were used to living within their local communities and going out for daily walks to buy the morning paper, for example. 

When someone suddenly says that they can no longer do that, you can imagine that the effect is massive. And so the team has worked very hard to communicate regularly to clients and carers to get the “Stay at home and stay safe message” across.  I have to say that within Portsmouth, the local community as well as friends and families have been superb in helping us to achieve that level of safety.  Everyone has looked out for their neighbours and I have received numerous phone calls when one of our clients have been found outside of their home.  For that, I can only thank the local communities of the city for tremendous their support.

How do you work with other organisations, e.g. NHS bodies, and why is this collaboration key? 

If I could stress one thing here, it is that we do not and cannot provide this service on our own!  Under normal circumstances, we are based at St Mary’s Hospital in Portsmouth working alongside the NHS Older Persons Mental Health Team. In addition, my team works closely with Adult Social Services, the Carers Centre, the HIVE, Age UK and the Alzheimer’s Society in Portsmouth to provide the best possible support that we can.  I promise you, this is a joint effort and it is a privilege to work with these organisations and many others in the city.

Why were you keen to get involved with Age Space? 

I am keen to get involved with Age Space because I am keen to work collaboratively with any organisation that has the welfare of people with dementia at its heart!

Thank-you very much Stephen for your time and for the great work that Mind Solent do!

If you feel your elderly parent or relative would benefit from the support Solent Mind provides, please find contact details below.

Telephone: 033 0332 4030
Email: remind@solentmind.org.uk 
Visit Website

The Remind Dementia Support Service for Portsmouth is available 9am – 5pm Monday to Thursday, and 9am – 4:30pm Fridays.

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